WWII Irish troops are pardoned

Published Tuesday, 07 May 2013
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Thousands of Irish soldiers who joined the British Army during the Second World War have been pardoned by the government.

WWII Irish troops are pardoned
Members of the Irish Defence Forces during the Second World War. (© UTV)

Legislation providing an apology and amnesty to the former troops, who were branded deserters after returning home from battle, was passed in the Dail on Tuesday.

Justice Minister in the Republic of Ireland, Alan Shatter, said it will make amends for the past and will recognise the efforts of those who fought on the Allied side against Nazi Germany, but who were court-martialed or dismissed from the defence forces as a result.

"It gives important statutory expression to the apology given by me on behalf of the state last year for the shameful manner in which they were treated," said Mr Shatter.

"Unfortunately, many of the individuals whose situation is addressed in this Bill did not live to see the day that this state finally acknowledged the important role that they played in seeking to ensure a free and safe Europe."

The Defence Forces (Second World War Amnesty and Immunity) Bill 2012 provides a pardon for the roughly 5,000 soldiers who were removed from the Irish Army under special powers introduced during WW2, known as the Emergency in neutral Ireland.

They faced widespread persecution when they returned home.

These men who fought bravely and with honour to rid Europe of fascism should have been commended instead of condemned

David Ford

Northern Ireland's Justice Minister, David Ford, said the legislation which was passed in the Oireachtas recognises the bravery of the soldiers, some 70 years on.

The Alliance leader said: "This legislation before the Dail recognises the discriminations they faced when they returned to Ireland following the Emergency.

"It also plays a part in reconciliation in these Islands and recognises the shared values we have in our history. Just last year, both the Taoiseach and Tánaiste laid wreaths in Enniskillen and Belfast during remembrance services highlighting the fact that people from all backgrounds came together and fought side by side in both World Wars One and Two."

North Down MLA Peter Weir said: "This announcement by the Irish government has ensured that an historic injustice has been put right. These were thousands of Irish soldiers who stepped forward to fight against fascism and for the freedom of Europe.

"It is clear that progress has been made in relations between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, and much of that must be down to the impact made by Her Majesty the Queen on her historic visit to the Republic."

SDLP Councillor Pat McCarthy said: "Nazism was a real evil and something which thousands of Irish soldiers wanted to fight against. That they were labelled deserters rather than heroes on their return is shameful.

"Today's apology is welcome and is recognition, albeit late of the outstanding and courageous service of Irish soldiers during the Second World War."

© UTV News
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31 Comments
Barrie in Singapore wrote (468 days ago):
As a British ex serviceman i have many thoughts on the nutrality of the republic during the world war, but that is for another day. I have today Marked the resting place of Trooper Patrick Moran who died in Singapore aged 21 and was Born in Co Meath and all citizens of the Irish republic that gave the ultimate sacrifice during 1939 to 1945 to mark the Pardon from their own Government It is just a pity that so many of the men that survived did not live to see this decision LEST WE FORGET
lorna in limavady wrote (498 days ago):
Dee Belfast. What a stupid comment. You appear to rather be ruled by Hitler ? than the British. So the British took everyone to work camps. starved them. Burned their bodies just because they did not like. their religion. because they were gay. because they were gypsys.Head full of sawdust? Those men who fought with the British had more sense..It is NO wonder the Unionist were frightened of a United Ireland when that was how they treated those who fought with the British. Had Hitler got his way you can bet Ireland would not have been spared.
Aaronj in belfast wrote (498 days ago):
Ireland's so called neutrality was a bit weird anyway. It's not like they allowed Britain to install secret radar bases, or allowed allied airmen to escape to the north while keeping members of the Luftwaffe under lock and key. Or even to allow RAF planes to fly through Donegal to protect the allied convoys to Britain. It strikes me just a wee bit hypocritical then for berating these people for so long and then ashamedly pardoning them long after not just the war ended but after finding out what the evil the Nazis did.
Steve in Bangor wrote (499 days ago):
dee in Belfast:- "it would make no difference to an irish man to be ruled by Hitler Germany than it wud to be ruled by the Brits" Are you serious? what would have happend to the Irish Jews, Irish Gypies & Gays If Hitler's Nazis had prevailed. Take the binkers off and learn some history!
George in UK wrote (499 days ago):
Dee in Belfast "surely these men had their own war at home to worry about. it would make no difference to an irish man to be ruled by Hitler Germany than it wud to be ruled by the Brits" Hmm if it wasn't for the "brits" as you put it the "Orisih" wouldn't have the republic of Ireland..... PS What was the "war at home" btw ?
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